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Advice on academic writing

Hear Prof Parvaneh Tavakoli talk about differences in the language used in academic writing from one discipline to another, and the support available.
My name is Parvaneh Tavakoli. And I teach TESOL and applied linguistics. From my perspective in the field of applied linguistics, students use a very different language to the language used in other disciplines. Perhaps the language we use in applied linguistics is a bit more sophisticated than that used in some other fields such as maths and physics. But at the same time, it is less sophisticated than language used in disciplines such as law. For that reason, the expectations and standards in our field might be different from the expectations and standards in other fields.
I think a critical point in getting the academic writing correct is to understand the assessment process and the assessment criteria. Well, I remember I, myself, as an international student coming to the UK, found it difficult to understand the language that is used in the assessment criteria. So for example, I might have received feedback on an essay that says it lacks critical analysis. And for me, it was difficult to understand what that critical analysis meant. So anyone who wants to be successful in their academic writing, one of the first things to do is to understand the assessment criteria. And in order to do so, you may need to go beyond the language that is used.
Academic writing is very demanding to a large number of our students. But at the same time, it is a very rewarding experience. And therefore, we have made sure that there are courses available and there are support systems available for the students. For example, the students are enrolled in sessional English classes, through which they receive help and support with their writing. And they learn how to express themselves through academic writing. Also, for each module, we provide specific sessions in which we work with the students on their academic writing and on different aspects of academic writing.
First of all, make sure that you understand the assessment task well. It is important to know what the assignment wants you to do. Number two, make sure that you have some careful planning before you start writing your assignment. There is a lot of research that suggests those people who do careful planning before the writing– they’re more successful in their writing. And number three, don’t leave things till last minute. Make sure that you complete your assignment in good time so that you have a bit of time left to go back and check your assignment again. And finally, make sure that you proofread your assignment for structure and grammar.

In this video Dr Parvaneh Tavakoli talks about differences in the language used in academic writing from one discipline to another, and about the support that is available to help you improve your academic writing. She also emphasises the importance of understanding the tasks set in assessed written assignments, and the assessment criteria. Finally, she gives useful advice about managing your time, so that you have plenty of time to re-read, edit and proofread your draft before submitting work.

Dr Parvaneh Tavakoli’s top tips

  1. Read your assignment task carefully – make sure you understand what you’ve been asked to do. If you’re not sure, ask your tutor for clarification or guidance. If there are several parts to the question, make sure you answer all of them.

  2. Good planning is essential – make sure you know what you want to say and develop a detailed outline, before you start drafting your essay.

  3. Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Make sure you complete your assignment several days before the deadline. Then you can come back, read and check through the text again with a fresh pair of eyes, and make any final changes ready for submission.

Now we’d like to hear from you.

  • If you’re the kind of person who leaves everything until the last minute, what can you do to ensure that you leave enough time for reading, reflecting on, editing and proof-reading your writing?

  • If you don’t have this problem, what advice would you give those who do?

Post your thoughts in the comment area below.

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